Compared to other departments, a customer-facing sales team is arguably most dependent on their social skills. Though these charms are most often used on clients and prospects, sales departments should also focus on creating strategic and collaborative relationships within the company too.
Forming strong ties internally is just as important as building relationships with clients. The sales team are the ones on the “front lines” with prospects and clients, so they need to understand the company’s product - as well as the company itself - inside out.
In order for your sales team to be an effective mouthpiece for your company, they will need to collaborate with other departments, follow a customer’s experience from start to finish, and to be aware of each department’s context within the wider organisation.
1. Sales Department + Marketing Department
Let’s start with the sales department’s closest cousin, the marketing team; whose job it is to instil initial interest in the consumer, and to get those people most likely to buy. Marketing opens the door, making your customer aware of your offering; then sales encourages those people to make a purchase. Therefore, sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin.
However, sales and marketing departments often don’t work together, and in some cases they can seem like two rival factions. However, sales and marketing teams need to collaborate closely to ensure they're communicating the same message to the customer. From a client’s perspective, they’re unlikely to be aware of whether communication is coming from marketing or sales, so uniting both teams might help to present a cohesive outbound message.
When they work together, salespeople can draw on the wealth of analytical data that marketing keeps about an audience, and marketing can tweak their advertising to allay fears and objections that get raised with front line salespeople.
2. Sales Department + Customer Services
As a customer, there’s nothing worse than a company giving you a sense of “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing”. Therefore the relationship between the sales team and any customer support team is fundamental. These are usually the two most customer-facing departments in an organisation, so they need to collaborate to present a fully rounded, accurate, and well-informed picture to the customer.
Some level of overlap needs to be provided when sales and customer services teams are trained. Experience of how sales departments target individuals, use specific messaging, and form agreements will help customer service operatives understand what the customer is promised from the outset and where their expectations lie. Insight into how customer services deals with incoming calls and complaints will help salespeople understand just what customers want, as well as an idea of how the product or service provided can go wrong.
Your sales team can help keep your customer service operatives in the loop with regards to new promotions, product specification changes, and fluctuations in pricing. Customer liaison teams should also make salespeople aware of common complaints, reported technical issues, and feature requests from customers.
3. Sales Department + Technical/Operations Departments
It is important that your sales force know the technical benefits and limitations of any product or service that you offer. Though it doesn’t apply to all sales teams, it’s certainly something that occasionally happens; salespeople making hopeful assumptions and “should be fine” shrugs in order to win a sale. However, in the long run, this only results in dissatisfied customers and a resentful operations or technical team!
The sales team should work in tandem with any departments that help deliver the end product or service in order to make sure they’re giving the customer a crystal clear picture of what to expect. Likewise, if your technical/operations team are customer facing (for example if they provide after-sales support), they may also benefit from learning a few telephone techniques so as to engage unhappy customers in a calming and productive way.
4. Sales Department + Accounts Department
As we know from experience (and common sense), nothing is ever a sale until the customer has paid. Collecting payment promptly and efficiently is the linchpin to any good business. The sales team may find it hugely beneficial to understand the crucial processes that go into the collection of payment, how any payment plans are set up and managed, and how payments are chased and pursued should they fall overdue.
In cases where salespeople have the authority to offer discounts, or bundle other products or services in to sweeten the deal, it’s important for them to understand how much this affects a company’s bottom line, and whether that option is really a long-term, viable strategy.
Getting to know the monetary side of the business may also provide added incentive to the sales department. If the figures aren’t looking too rosy, then it can give salespeople new drive to close more sales. If things are going well, they know that between themselves and the marketing team, they’re doing something right.
5. Sales Department + Senior Management
Sales teams may dread meetings with upper management, but engaging with all levels of management can help guide the department, and provide valuable insight to help the sales team perform their best within the context of the whole company.
An intimate knowledge of the direction that management want to take the company can help drive the sales department’s actions. Seeing as the sales department is the team that brings in the money so management can steer the business, being acutely aware of the figures required to achieve the desired growth can help the sales team enormously. Sales managers can set achievable targets and create incentives within their own team to help higher management reach their goals.
Maintaining a good rapport with upper management can also unblock barriers to getting things done, and helps to keep the needs of the consumer at the forefront of all management decisions. And needless to say - keeping your bosses happy is always a good idea!
Ultimately, instilling a collaborative culture in your sales department helps make things easier for both your salespeople and for those in other departments. The more smoothly a company is run, the better service you will be able to provide; and the better service you provide, the more satisfied customers you’ll have.
If sales manage their internal relationships using the same positive attitude and collaborative mindset that they use to win clients, they can help the whole company achieve higher productivity, less frustration and more fruitful customer relationships. And isn’t that what we all want? If you would like any advice on this or how to implement it in your organisation, please get in touch.